The progression from a Honda to a Harley-Davidson Sportster.
For me, it all started with a 1975 Honda MR50 Elsinore. My parents gave it to me Christmas morning along with a black full-face helmet that sported one yellow lightning bolt sticker half flaked off. The setup was used, it was abused, but it was mine and I rode the hell out of it for years on the rural Oregon farm I grew up on.
Fast forward to 2014 when I decided after years of not owning a bike that it was time to get back into it. I knew I wanted to build something that I could ride every day without any reliability issues but something that still paid homage to what motorcycles used to be. I wanted an agile urban bike that I could bar hop around Portland on but also something I could run all over the western US with when I felt the itch to explore. I ended up buying a 2011 Harley Davidson Sportster 48 and it was all downhill from there.
I began researching and hoarding parts, modifying the bike whenever I could stay out of the seat long enough. The contrast cut Roland Sands Design parts piled up, and I shaved the forks to allow the use of some Lowbrow Customs fork shrouds. I ground, filed and chopped a yellow lensed headlight to fit the stock Harley bucket and stuffed it with an LED bulb from DK Customs to match their rear 3-in-1 Stealth LED light. To remedy the skinny rear tire look, I adapted an OEM FXDB wheel and stuffed a 180 rear tire under the shaved fender and fender strut covers. A sissybar from Slims Fab Farm gives me all the storage I need for long trips, and some shocks from Progressive along with a Biltwell seat give me a little more comfort. I also added a skidplate from The Speed Merchant, some handbuilt Chopper Zeez handlebars from Zombie Performance, a local Oregon company, and some mini floorboards from San Diego Customs to keep me planted. A gorgeous raw stainless 2-into-1 exhaust from Thrashin Supply and an Arlen Ness air cleaner give the bike a bit more performance and a lot more style.
Everyone that rides a Sportster knows the woes of an awful fuel range via the small gas tank. You either sacrifice the aesthetic for a big tank or you get to know the local gas station attendants all too well. I picked up a bobbed gas tank from Lowbrow Customs to up my capacity and also bought an old Honda CT90 auxiliary tank that I mounted on the swingarm for when things get too desolate out there on the road. I’ve only had to use it once but I was damn glad I had it.
Slowly my vision began to take shape and many thousands of dollars later I had built what I consider to be the perfect EFI rubbermount Sporty. It’s sanitary and stylish, simple and reliable. I keep telling myself this is the bikes final form and I’m sure that’s a lie. But for now, all this bike is getting from me is more miles on the odometer.
Words and build by - Zach Ho
Photos by: Nate Meeds